Turmeric, or Curcuma longa, is a vibrant and aromatic spice that has captivated the culinary world for centuries. The health benefits of turmeric are also known anywhere around the world.
With its distinctive golden-yellow hue and earthy flavor, turmeric has been a staple in kitchens and a key ingredient in traditional medicine and cultural practices across various parts of the world.
Turmeric, sometimes called the golden spice or Indian saffron, is a tall plant that grows in Asia and Central America.
It provides several health benefits, such as reducing inflammation, improving liver function, and relieving pain, according to MedicalNewsToday.
The turmeric in spice cabinets and store shelves comes from the plant’s ground roots.
Its bright yellow color has even inspired some cultures to use it as a dye. Ground turmeric is also a key ingredient in curry powder.
In stores, you can find turmeric in different forms like capsules, teas, powders, and extracts.
Turmeric’s active ingredient is curcumin, which has powerful health properties.
In traditional Indian medicine, known as Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric has been recommended for various health conditions, especially chronic pain and inflammation.
Western medicine has also started studying turmeric for its potential as a pain reliever and healing agent.
As per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, one tablespoon (tbsp) of turmeric powder has the following nutritional content:
- 29 calories
- 0.91 grams (g) of protein
- 0.31 g of fat
- 6.31 g of carbohydrates
- 2.1 g of fiber
- 0.3 g of sugar
- 26 percent of your daily manganese needs
- 16 percent of your daily iron intake
- 5 percent of your daily potassium requirement
- 3 percent of your daily vitamin C intake
Health Benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric, often called the golden spice, has gained recognition for its potential health benefits. Here’s a breakdown of some of the promising advantages it offers:
1. Reduces Inflammation: Turmeric has shown promise in lessening chronic inflammation, which can affect various tissues in the body. It may not provide immediate relief during active flare-ups, but it could help extend periods of remission for conditions like ulcerative colitis, said Cleveland Clinic.
2. Improves Memory: Clinical trials have suggested that curcumin, a compound in turmeric, can enhance memory performance in adults without dementia. This may be due to its ability to reduce brain inflammation and act as an antioxidant. It’s also being tested for its potential in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Alleviates Pain: Traditionally used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for treating arthritis, turmeric extract may reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis. However, it’s advisable not to rely solely on curcumin supplements; medical guidance should be sought.
4. Fights Free Radicals: Turmeric’s antioxidant properties can protect the body from harmful free radicals by neutralizing them. It may also boost the action of other antioxidants.
5. Lowers Heart Disease Risk: Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may contribute to reducing the risk of heart disease. Studies suggest it can reverse certain aspects of heart disease and improve arterial function.
6. Helps with Depression: Curcumin in turmeric might elevate brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels, potentially reversing changes associated with depression. Some studies even indicate its effectiveness comparable to that of Prozac in alleviating depressive symptoms.
7. Cancer Prevention: Research indicates that curcumin could influence the growth and development of cancer cells. In colorectal cancer, it was associated with a 40% reduction in colon lesions in men.
8. Type 2 Diabetes Prevention: Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties may help stabilize blood sugar levels, making it a valuable tool in preventing or managing type 2 diabetes. Studies on prediabetic adults showed a reduced risk of diabetes with curcumin supplements.
9. Eases Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): Curcumin supplements have been observed to alleviate PMS symptoms in women. It might also provide relief from menstrual cramps, per WebMD.
10. Improves Liver Function: Turmeric’s potent antioxidant effects can protect the liver from damage caused by toxins. This is especially beneficial for individuals taking strong medications for conditions like diabetes.
11. Promotes Healthy Digestion: Turmeric in curry powder adds flavor and aids digestion. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties support healthy digestion. They are being explored as a potential irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) treatment.
Turmeric Side Effects
While the health benefits of turmeric are being enjoyed by many, it’s essential to be aware of potential risks, especially when consuming it in large quantities:
1. Upsetting the Stomach: Turmeric may irritate the stomach in large amounts. Some individuals participating in studies on turmeric for cancer treatment had to discontinue due to adverse digestive effects. It can stimulate the stomach to produce more gastric acid, which, while beneficial for some, can cause discomfort in others.
2. Blood-Thinning Properties: Turmeric’s natural properties may have a blood-thinning effect, which could lead to easier bleeding. Pregnant women should avoid turmeric supplements because of this. Although the exact reason is unclear, turmeric’s influence on blood composition might play a role. Individuals taking blood-thinning medications like warfarin (Coumadin) should avoid high doses of turmeric.
3. Stimulating Contractions: While limited clinical data support the idea that curry consumption can induce labor.
However, using small amounts of turmeric as a spice in food is generally considered safe and shouldn’t pose health problems.
Turmeric is more than just a spice; it’s a multifaceted ingredient that brings flavor, color, and potential health benefits to our lives.
Its rich history, cultural significance, and versatility continue to make it a beloved and revered component of our dishes and overall well-being.
As with any dietary supplement or health intervention, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating turmeric or curcumin into your routine, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications, to ensure it is safe and appropriate for your specific situation.
See how to properly eat the root to enjoy the health benefits of turmeric by watching the video below: